The Anatomy of a Search

booleanstrings Uncategorized

A Boolean search string in a search engine has its structure. Its elements are: keywords, key phrases in quotation marks, operators (like site:), and special characters (like “*” in Google). Unfortunately, this structure has little to do with what we have in mind when we search; so the challenge is to translate our search for people with certain professional background into those cryptic-looking strings. To facilitate this translation, let’s think of the structure of our search this way:

1. What type of a document are we looking for? This could be: a resume, an online profile on a particular network, a list of people, someone’s contact info, or some other type of a page. To get to that type of results (perhaps risking some false positives but that’s OK) we could start the search string with:

  • A resumeintitle:resume OR inurl:resume -jobs -job…
  • An online profile (example):…
  • A list of peoplefiletype:xls name title company phone email…
  • etc.

2. What kind of terminology are we looking for? These are your keywords, like Java, or C++, or SAP, etc.

3. What is the physical location? We add names of towns, area codes, zip codes, and other location pointers.

4. What are the target titles? Target companies?  These seem straightforward.

5. What do we want to exclude?  (Example: exclude “managers”) Use the minus to exclude words.

This doesn’t cover it all – but in many cases will help someone new to complex Boolean searching to get going. To construct your initial search just follow the structure: 1-2-3-4-5. Then (as always) alter the string depending on the results.

As an example, let’s search for resumes of Java developers in NYC from one of the large Wall Street companies. Let’s construct the search following the steps above; this is an example to illustrate the concept – and a fine search string to play with:

intitle:resume OR inurl:resume -jobs -job Java NYC OR 212 OR “new york” developer Bloomberg OR Goldman OR Morgan OR Merill -manager

That is my point for today. I am very interested to hear if it would help to create Boolean strings.